Legal Aid’s Housing Law Unit is our largest group with 14 staff attorneys, two loaned associates (from Arnold & Porter and Skadden), seven support staff, and five supervising attorneys. During 2023, our housing unit helped nearly 2,200 people. 

One of those people is Lakecia King, who came to Legal Aid in January 2023 after her landlord sued to evict her and her three children from their home. As a survivor of domestic violence, Ms. King needed to move to be safe from her abuser but was being held up by the DC Housing Authority (DCHA).  

Ms. King has a voucher from DCHA that subsidizes her rent, but the agency failed to properly calculate her portion of the rent based on her income and household composition, or take steps to help her secure new housing. Initially, the agency failed to process the paperwork to accurately calculate what her rent should be, causing her to fall behind on her rent payments. DCHA also failed to process her emergency request to move. This meant Ms. King was unable to access new safe housing while also facing eviction from her current home.

Ms. King’s Legal Aid attorney Matt Boucher began working with the Housing Authority and, after extensive negotiation, convinced them to issue an emergency transfer voucher. The agency also processed the paperwork to properly calculate her rent going forward and agreed to pay her previous landlord $12,000 to cover the unpaid rent balance that was based on the incorrect calculations and that led to the eviction case.  

Ms. King has now moved with her children into a new home where she feels safe and free from the threat of eviction. 


Lakecia King


Housing Right to Counsel Project

Ms. King was one of thousands of clients who was able to prevent an eviction with the help of a lawyer. But many tenants are still facing the legal system alone. Data from the National Coalition for a Civil Right to Counsel found that while 95% of landlords have representation during eviction proceedings, only 15% of tenants do. Everyone deserves access to safe and affordable housing. But as the District grapples with a housing affordability crisis, many residents face severe challenges affording and keeping their homes.   

Legal Aid is working with our partners to close that gap. In November 2023, we relaunched the Housing Right to Counsel Project along with five other nonprofits, and 19 private law firms, with support from the DC Access to Justice Commission, the DC Council, and the DC Bar Foundation. The Project focuses on providing legal representation to DC tenants who receive a government housing subsidy but are facing eviction. This can protect both their current housing and their ability to continue using their subsidy. The Project was covered by the Washington Post, Telemundo, and several local TV and online outlets.

"I think about [my lawyers] all the time all these years later. That case was my first time in landlord tenant court. Without them, I would not have known what legal steps to take by myself. It wasn’t just me who would have been harmed if things didn’t go well in that case. I have a family. My lawyers fought for me every step of the way."
Latricia Jones, former client, Housing Right to Counsel Project

The Project is a critical step toward leveling the playing field in eviction proceedings that can cause significant harm to our neighbors. Tenants who face an eviction judgment are not only forcibly removed from their homes, but can also lose possessions and jobs, and their children can be forced to change schools and lose their sense of stability. The devastating effects are compounded for tenants with government housing subsidies: evicted tenants may also lose their subsidy, making it nearly impossible for them to afford safe housing in the District.   

Through the Project, we reach out to a subset of tenants with subsidies who are facing eviction to guarantee representation. If these tenants reach out to us before their first court hearing, we pair them with a lawyer from one of the participating organizations. 

A pilot program that ran in the District from 2016-2019 helped 300 people, and participants in the project were eight times less likely to be evicted. As we continue to expand the Project, we hope to ensure that any tenant in need of a lawyer can access one.  

Legal Aid's Impact

Organizational Information & Acknowledgments